Kyoto Jazz Massive

Kyoto Jazz Massive

Spirit of the Sun


The Okino brothers, Shuya and Yoshihiro, break on through to global dance prominence with this first album of original material. I wouldn’t say I love it, but I will say that it’s pleasant stuff on the jazzy tip with some fresh beats and intricate textures.

Everything here sounds great when it’s happening, unless you’re a lyric person (only 4 1/2 songs have singing, and none of it is going into any Norton Anthology of Modern Acid Jazz), or unless you are somehow allergic to electric piano, which is slathered over the top of everything like steak sauce at your local Outback. Vanessa Freeman and Maiya James are very nice house-diva singers on their tracks, “The Brightness of Your Mind” and “Mind Expansions” respectively, and both songs just kind of keep growing and changing to be the very definition of nice unchallenging housy funk-lite. But let’s not discuss Victor Davies’ overly mannered Jarreau-isms on “Deep in Your Mind,” which kills the album dead at track four.

Fortunately, the Okinos are able to revive things with three sweet (and vocal-less) tracks: “Stargazer” is just about as Kraftwerky as it can be with those Steely Dan horns and that BT drumbeat; “Eclipse” doesn’t seem to have a center but does have synth/voice stuff that sounds like the Star Trek theme, which is ace frehley for realz; and “Between the Lights” is a splendidly boring chillout track that conjures up Grover Washington, Jr., and his ilk. Oh, and electric piano all over.

But then we’re back to vocals, with “Shine,” and it’s more of the same again from there on out. “Substream” is fusion with more Trek melodies, and “Behind The Shadow” just tries too damned hard to be uplifting and organic when there’s nothing at its core except a robotic wallflower of a beat. Not even the obligatory lengthy electric piano solo can save us now.

“Pleasant” isn’t always a kind word.

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